Your Script Is Your Calling Card

By Michael Schilf · January 6, 2011

Reality check: your original spec screenplay is probably never going to get sold. But that’s okay because your primary goal is not to sell your script.

The truth of the matter is that a career as a screenwriter is less about selling your great screenplay and everything about selling yourself. A good original screenplay with a unique and memorable voice is hard to come by, and just because the “power people” might not want to make your movie, they do want to meet the person who wrote a really great script.

And here’s why: most screenplays produced in Hollywood are on-assignment work, meaning that some creative development people at some studio are throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks, and when they find a movie marketing idea that they believe will be a winner – often after they have already attached a director and talent – they embrace the reality that they need to manufacture a screenplay.

Here’s a common scenario. You have written a great spec rom-com, and you knew some people who knew some people and because you were lucky, you landed an agent from of those connections. Now your agent gets wind that a particular creative executive at a particular studio is looking for a writer to pen a romantic comedy they’ve developed. So your agent sends them your spec rom-com as a sample of your work; they like it, and you get a meeting to hear their pitch: “It’s about a guy who falls in love with his best friend’s mom, and they live on Mars.” (Yeah, It really can be that bad.)

So you listen to their presentation with an open mind, and go back home to put together a movie treatment, just like the other five writers up for the job. And then in a few weeks, you – along with the other writers – come in and try to wow them with a new and improved version of their story. And bingo! Somebody gets the job.

Remember, you don’t always sell your screenplay, but you do sell you. And using that kick-ass spec script as your calling card is the key.